Saturday, March 31, 2012

Zia Records, Bookmans, Toxic Ranch & PDQ

If you're from Arizona, at least one of those names should be familiar. They're all interesting cases of hipster media stores.
Zia is now a sponsor for Coachella. So, they're doing OK. They sell used CDs, DVD's Games and books. Very much like a "Tower Records" kind of vibe, and defintely my least favorite. But, the business model is very much the traditional- sell the new stuff, and trade ins are like Used cars- inspected, and assigned value based upon condition and popularity.
Bookmans, likewise, seems to be doing well, as well. Very much a traditional used-Book store, with some vinyl, some toys, some games, and so forth. My favorite is the Used magazines- a good way of getting your pop-media fix cheaper. The key for them, though is sheer volume. Each of their stores are freakin' HUUGE. Also, they're very keyed-in to environmental concerns, which is a selling point for me. My favorite of their stores is the Bookmans at Grant in Tucson, where they have had electric car chargers since the 1980's.
Toxic Ranch/ Westworld is more a tale of survival. Bill originally had the store in pomona, California, where I first encountered what was called "Toxic Shock" back in the early 1980's. Then, Bill moved to Tucson, after forming a mail order, and a record label. I moved to Tucson very shortly thereafter, so I feel like he and the store are familiar to me. But, it's much more the boutique model, and I think they'd have gone under if not for online sales. They're still trying to make it on Niche markets, as opposed to what's locally popular, and that's a hard road to toe. I respect the effort more than I actually shop there.
Then, there's PDQ, in Tucson. They didn't survive. They were a great example of failing to adapt to the times. They were a massive mostly-vinyl Used and new record store very, very much in the traditional indie spirit- very 'High Fidelity", if you will. But, you see, they missed the basic lesson of running a business- adapt to your clientele, or die. You cannot make them come to you.
When talk about Indie stores, these are the default models in my mind. In the romantic part of my mind, I think of the PDQ style. If I think about the early 1990's style, I think of Zia. If we're talking what I think the model should be, we're talking about Bookmans, and if we're talking about what most people are trying to do, I think we're talking Toxic Ranch. Different models, sure, and I bet there are individual variants wherever you are, but I bet the models aren't so very different.

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